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"Crucial" oversight needed for police AI use

Data analytics tools on the rise due to cuts and could lead to discrimination, according to Royal United Services Institute

A report looking into police use of AI and data-driven technologies has called for urgent national guidance to curb concerns of discrimination.

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) published a study on Sunday calling for guidelines to ensure data analytics, AI and computer algorithms were developed "legally and ethically". 

The rising deployment of such technologies was in part due to cuts to the force, the report said, adding that police officers are now battling against "information overload" as the sheer scale of work data increases. It also highlighted a stance towards "preventative" policing, as opposed to "reactive". 

The report said that future policy frameworks should be "principles-based" and complement existing police protocols in a "tech-agnostic" way. 

"Rather than establishing prescriptive rules and standards for different data technologies, the framework should establish standardised processes to ensure that data analytics projects follow recommended routes for the empirical evaluation of algorithms within their operational context and evaluate the project against legal requirements and ethical standards," the report recommended. 

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"The new guidance should focus on ensuring multi-disciplinary legal, ethical and operational input from the outset of a police technology project; a standard process for model development, testing and evaluation; a clear focus on the human-machine interaction and the ultimate interventions a data-driven process may inform; and ongoing tracking and mitigation of discrimination risk."

RUSI was commissioned to conduct an independent study into English and Welsh police use of data analytics by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI). Its focus was on algorithmic bias with a primary focus to help CDEI's own review that's working towards a draft for the ethical development and deployment of data analytics tools for policing.

"There are significant opportunities to create better, safer and fairer services for society through AI, and we see this potential in policing," Roger Taylor, chairman of the CDEI, said, according to The Guardian. "But new national guidelines, as suggested by RUSI, are crucial to ensure police forces have the confidence to innovate legally and ethically."

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